What Is Cooperative Play? 9 Incredible Benefits & Examples!

By Paula McLaren •  Updated: 01/14/22 •  6 min read  •  Preschool » Preschooler Play

Whether sharing a spade in a sandpit or playing a simple game of tag, encouraging your child to use their cooperative play skills is incredibly important. 

This is because everything they say, play and do will offer them chances to explore the world around them, establish friendships and learn what they are capable of.

This type of play also forms the foundations of ALL future interactions so it’s super important.

So what is cooperative play? What are the benefits of this type of play? And how can we encourage our little ones to play cooperatively? Well, keep on reading to learn all this and more!

What Is Cooperative Play?

What Are The 10 Characteristics Of Cooperative Play?

Cooperative play is characterised in children when they do the following:

10 Characteristics Of Cooperative Play
  1. Play together to achieve a common goal,
  2. Take turns,
  3. Follow rules,
  4. Share without prompting,
  5. Accept agreed roles in play,
  6. Communicate a desired outcome,
  7. Learn from others,
  8. Are aware of others’ feelings,
  9. Discuss and listen to others ideas, 
  10. Play together and be fully aware and engaged in what others are doing.

So why is cooperative play so important for a child’s development?

Why Is Cooperative Play Important?

Cooperative play is very important as it is the basis from which all future social interactions with others will be built. 

Through this type of play, children learn how to:

  1. Work together, share and take turns.
  2. Take others’ feelings into consideration by listening to what others have to say and resolving disagreements.
  3. Improve their problem-solving skills.
  4. Establish leadership qualities as well as teach the benefits of being part of a team.

Cooperative play opportunities will also help to:

  1. Develop language and cognitive skills.
  2. Teach self-regulation.
  3. Deal with the expectations of others.

It is also the stage at which the first meaningful friendships with peers will start to develop!

Finally, it has been proven that children who are given the opportunity to engage in this type of play are more likely to succeed socially and academically at school and be less aggressive or withdrawn in a social setting.

In short, cooperative play is the ground roots from which social competence will grow! So it’s pretty important!

At What Age Does Cooperative Play Occur?

Cooperative play occurs between between 4-5 years of age.

As always, children develop at different rates, so some children may reach this stage a little earlier or later than this. So, be patient and try not to compare your child with others.

What Stage Is Cooperative Play?

Cooperative play is the last stage of play that your child will reach through as they grow up.

If you’re interested in the 6 stages of play, check out the below posts to learn more:

What Is The Difference Between Parallel And Cooperative Play?

Some parents often wonder what the difference is between parallel and cooperative play…

Well, (as the name suggests) parallel play is when children play alongside each other, are aware of what the other children are doing, but they will NOT work together with a common goal in sight.

Children engaging in parallel play will enjoy being around other children but are not yet ready to share their toys or take turns willingly.

The link between parallel play and coop play is associative play, where children will play with each other but in a rather disorganised fashion and with no common purpose or outcome in mind.

When they finally progress to cooperative play, you will notice that your child will be able to communicate the desired outcome and play their part in the group activity to achieve it!

Cooperative play becomes more focused and organised with collaboration rather than self-interest being the main focus.

How Do You Encourage Cooperative Play?

As parents, we can encourage coop play by simply providing the right play opportunities. 

As with all stages of play, it takes practice, so ensuring that you give your child the time and opportunities to play around and with others is hugely important.

Engaging with other children on playdates, at mother and toddler groups, playgroups and nursery schools are all great places for children to learn how to play with others.

Visiting the park and having to share the swings and slides are also great ways to get your children to engage and cooperate with other children.

You can also encourage this type of play at home by playing simple board games where they have to abide by rules and take turns.

Teaching your children good listening skills and modelling how to interact with others in a kind and thoughtful manner will also help your child on their path to cooperative play.

What Are Some Examples Of Cooperative Play?

As well as the above, here are some examples of cooperative play activities for home and in specific play settings:

Need More Parenting Help?

Paula McLaren

Paul Mclaren - Norland Nurse NNEB RSH is the founder of Teething to Tantrums and has been in the child care industry as a Norland Nanny since 1982. Since then, her mission has been to help parents become the best they can possibly be. And each year, she continues to help more families understand their child's development, the trials and joys of parenting and of course, how to care for their little ones.

Keep Reading